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date: 23 July 2018

Abstract and Keywords

The category of the sacred was central to classical sociology, and remains key to understanding the contribution of social theory to the study of religion and society. Durkheim highlights the ‘socio-religious’ sacred, operating within otherworldly cosmologies and practices. Durkheim also enables us to conceptualize a ‘bio-economic’ modality in highly differentiated capitalist economies. The ‘transcendent sacred’ central to Weber’s account of the Protestant ethic highlights how forces experienced as extraordinary and otherworldly can coexist with a social sphere differentiated as secular. Weber highlighted the power of forces of rationalization and bureaucratization in modernity. Extending this today suggests a ‘bio-political’ modality of the sacred expressive of the extraordinary power that modern law and governance have over life. These modalities of the sacred can be used to provide new insights into phenomena such as resurgent forms of Islam and Christian Pentecostalism, fetishization of commodities, and bio-political governance of bodies.

Keywords: commodities, Émile Durkheim, fetishism, Islam, otherworldly orientations, Pentecostalism, sacred, secular, social order, Max Weber

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